Effective Subject Lines

As an extension of our posts in December about personalisation, we thought we would start the New Year with a focus on subject lines. New opening lines for a New Year you could say.

Some subject lines work really well, and others leave you cold. Why is that? Well that’s what we are going to explore.

1) It’s about creating intriguing, catchy subject lines that capture the recipient’s attention above all the other emails in their inbox.

2) It’s also about creating subject lines that are in keeping with your brands style and language.

3) And it’s about creating subject lines that cleverly and naturally incorporate a recipient’s name to make it really personalised.

I have recently received two campaigns which did a great job of using personalisation in the subject line, and they were really engaging and got me to open the emails and read them.

‘Amanda, have we got the deal for you!’
I thought ‘wow I better check that out just in case it really is something I will like, also I don’t want to miss out!’ I opened it of course, the deal was good, and so I thought it was a great email. You can play on people’s FOMO (Fear of missing out) – if that works for you and if it’s relevant, it’s fine.

‘Thought you’d like to see this Amanda’

I was naturally curious as to what they think I should see, so I opened it. (Well it worked didn’t it!) Inside was simply a promo about something that I wasn’t interested in, but it got me to open and read the email.

I received another email campaign that used personalisation in the subject line, but it didn’t provide me with quite the same feeling as those other two. The email came from someone I knew, and the subject line said:

‘Amanda, I owe you an apology!’
I thought, ‘Oh gosh, what for, I haven’t spoken to them in a long time! So I opened it, and saw an email that was a clever sales pitch to attend their sales seminar. I don’t open any of their emails any more.


Apart from this example I give above, some examples of not so effective personalization we have seen are:

  • Name; Do You Have a Minute?
  • Exclusive Savings for Name
  • Name – Good news and bad news
  • Hi Name
  • NAME; Save 30% for Two Days Only!

Each of these examples read like a subject line from a spammer or some such similar source. So how likely would you be to unsubscribe from emails with a subject like these? How much more likely to click ‘Spam’ would you be? How much less likely would you be to open emails from these senders again?
The general idea is about being on brand and in keeping with your brands tone and voice; it’s also about not appearing to come across as a spammer, or appear to be people who send emails with subject lines that give a less than reputable appearance. You don’t want to be sending subject lines that make people think you are a spammer. And we all know it’s wise to stay away from ‘deal’ and ‘$’ and ‘free’ and words along those lines.

My key take hope tips from this for you would be to write subject lines that:

  • Are intriguing and catchy
  • Are in keeping with your brands language, tone, style and message
  • Not trying to sell anyone anything
  • Naturally, and cleverly incorporate a recipient’s name

Do all these things, and you will have winning subject lines that will  increase open rates. And we all like that.